As a school we’ve been really digging in to what we’re about this year both in terms of ethos and culture but also in terms of teaching.
I as a head am not overly prescriptive about how people teach but on our last dig in I was struck by what was really working in our classrooms. To varying degrees there were three key elements to the teaching these three things were the bits that were making a real difference. Sir David Carter refers to them as ‘signature pedagogies,’ I define them as those things that are special about the teaching in your school. None of them are ‘rocket science’ but it’s amazing how often they get missed. The other thing I noticed is that we don’t really do gimmicks. I have had three moments in the past week where I have been struck by the relentless brilliance of the teachers in my school. They were those moments when they were so good that you just marvel at the skill of the person teaching the class. None of it was showy, some may call it’ bread and butter’ stuff but it was still amazing to watch.
1 ) ‘Fierce Kindness’ not sure where I got this phrase (It may have been @eltronnie) but it completely sums up what happens in our classrooms. I was struck by the fact that praise was sparingly used if at all, that the dialogue between the pupil and the teacher was relentlessly challenging and completely focused on moving the learning forward. I spoke to the children after and they didn’t even notice the lack of praise. This working relationship is based on trust, the children didn’t need praise because it was intrinsic in the rooms. The children knew they had done good work but they were desperate to know how it could be better. It was completely evident that the children were motivated and working hard. That the drive was coming from the children was testament to the great work the teachers had done in creating that working culture in their classrooms. These classrooms summed up our belief in Everyday Excellence.
2) ‘Effective Modelling’ has become a real driver in our classrooms. Explicit modelling the process is immensely powerful and has been something that has over the last three years become a key part of our work. I won’t explain modelling others have talked about it way better than I could, for a good start check out the article below.
(For a summary of modelling this article from the TES by A. Tharby is a good place to get an idea. Using Modelling successfully.)
3) ‘Precision.’ Knowledgeable teachers, knowing their subject and really digging at the detail. Precise, clear teaching leads to clarity of expectation and quality of work. Teachers knowing their stuff is vital. Sounds obvious but the devil really is in the detail.
In every class these three things were apparent to varying degrees. The three elements working together creates some intensely powerful teaching.
There is still some work to do on consistency and I firmly believe we need to start ‘sweating the small stuff’ a little, we need to be a bit more pernickety, but that is polish to the things that really work for our children. That this stuff is done in a vibrant engaging curriculum means we are beginning to hit the best of both worlds.
So ask yourself...
'What are the key elements of Teaching in your classrooms?'
Doing that has helped us hugely in developing our work.
For us it’s no gimmicks, no tricks, just good teaching.